Sunday, 31 October 2010

Biomass Renewable Energy.

Despite being an ardent supporter of 'renewable energy' there are some forms of renewable energy over which I've had my doubts, for example 'biomass' which is defined by the Carbon Trust as:
"A wide variety of organic material such as wood, straw, dedicated energy stock, sewage sludge and animal litter for the generation of heat electricity or motive power"

The use of biomass, in this case wood, to generate clean energy came to the fore here in Wrecsam on Friday with a protest by workers and management at the Kronospan Wood Panel plant in Chirk on Friday. The protest concerned the fact that government subsidies for the use of 'virgin wood' as a biomass fuel was creating a shortage and artificially increasing prices.

I was always under the impression that 'wood burning' as a biomass fuel was waste wood, end of life wood or recycled wood and not 'virgin wood'. What is clear from what Kronospan executives are saying is that the use of 'virgin wood' is not sustainable as wood is not being replaced at the same rate as it is being used thus causing shortages and higher prices to wood manufacturers because of subsidies to the biomass industry.

There is a need to urgently look at the subsidy system for biomass otherwise there is a danger of placing wood manufacturing jobs at risk and we cannot afford to lose 600 well paid jobs in Wrecsam... over to you Jane Davidson!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Tory Traditionalist's gets all emotional.

I love it when an establishment Tory like Iain Dale get's all upset and emotional about the loss of tradition in the 'mother of parliament.'

Yes Iain is offended because firstly, the Youth Parliament is meeting in the chamber of the House today, secondly a youth member of Sinn Fein, Connor Morgan, will be attending, and thirdly Connor Morgan will have the audacity to address the Youth Parliament in Gaelic (shock, horror!!)

These are the interesting bits from Dale's blog which shows the contempt in which he holds the devolved nations and their languages and their rights to equal status:
As some of you may already know, the United Kingdom Youth Parliament is debating in the House of Commons Chamber today. The fact it is allowed to sit in the chamber at all is looked upon by traditionalists with some disdain. What I am about to say with fill them not just with disdain, but horror.

I am told that a young Sinn Fein member of the UK Youth Parliament named Connor Morgan will be speaking in the House of Commons chamber today. Yes, you read that right. A Sinn Fein member speaking in a UK Parliament.There are two ways of looking at this... Or alternatively it will make you sick to your stomach that someone who presumably agrees with the views of Messers McGuinness and Adams and would refuse to swear the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen is allowed to set foot in the place.

But this story has two twists. Connor Morgan told my assistant, Grant Tucker, yesterday that he would be making a speech during the proceedings today and he would be doing it while speaking Irish Gaelic*. Not only that, but according to Morgan, Mr Speaker Bercow had readily given his permission to do that. If that is true (and I emphasise, IF), it's incredible and will undoubtedly have consequences.

Iain goes on to describe a comment of Connor Morgan on his Facebook page about George Osborne as a 'charming turn of phrase' when he called him a 'cunt'. Iain Dale must have forgotton what his 'personal assistant' and chief 'dirt digger' Grant Tucker said on HIS Facebook page which got him sacked as chair of Welsh Conservative Future. Yes, he wrote that he wished George Galloway was dead. Pot, Kettle, Black, Mr Dale...yes indeed!

Some more on S4C viewing figures!

These are observations of a friend who was involved with broadcasting in Wales about S4C viewing
These people that harp on about the fact that S4C has "zero" ratings for some programmes don't realise that the zero doesn't actually mean zero !

Basically, in lay mans terms, a set figure is used as a benchmark, and if the programmes audience figure is below that figure then its classed as a zero rating. I know it was well publicised that Sgorio had attracted a zero rating, but what wasn't widely publicised was that the majority of zero ratings were for the "Cyw" programmes. This would be like judging the BBC's performance based on their CBeebee's channel.

Another point that also seems to be missed by some are the figures in their true context. If we take Pobol Y Cwm as an example, thier average audience figure is 125,000, which in tv land, isn't a huge amount however when you consider there ...are approximatley 600,000 Welsh speakers, who are just as likely to watch an English Language channel as well as S4C, 125,000 out of a potential audience of 600,000 equates to 20.8%. In comparison, Eastenders average audience varies between 7 and 12 million and the UK population is approximatley 61 million, which is the potential maximum audience figure. If we use 10 million as an average for Eastenders then that equates to 16.4% and even if we use 12 million as a figure that still only equates to 19.7%. So by using the above figures Pobol Y Cwm performs better than Eastenders, however I do concede that Eastenders has hit the 40% target in the past.

In today's multi channel age, there would be many a programmer who would love to have an audience reach of 20.8%. What people seem to forget is that when S4C was established, it wasn't established to compete with English language channels for audiences, it was established to help protect the Welsh language

Thursday, 28 October 2010

S4C Viewing figures.

It is a sad state of affairs that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport appear to have based their decision on cutting S4C funding partly if not fully on viewing figures of the channel. I decided to try and get a better understanding of how this works having read Brokentv's excellent blog where it describes S4C's viwing figures as:
But what of S4C? After all (scoff! Guffaw! Etc!), doesn’t that have No Viewers At All? Sadly for fans of lazy topical comedy (and hey, you’re reading this blog), it doesn’t do too badly on our grand list, placed in 69th position – that’s above Comedy Central Extra, ESPN (which has exclusive live Premier League football) and UKTV’s Home. Not bad for a channel targeting the 1% of the UK population able to speak Welsh fluently (and no, there’s no analogue TV in Wales any more, so none of that figure is boosted by English-language Channel 4 programming, as used to be the case. Everyone in Wales can view ‘proper’ Channel 4 if they want to nowadays).

The definitive guide to understanding how viewing data is collected is the Broadcaster Audience Research Board (BARB) website
and this is how the process works:
BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) is the organisation responsible for providing the official measurement of UK television audiences.

BARB commissions specialist companies to provide the television audience measurement service on its behalf – RSMB, Ipsos MORI and TNS.

BARB is responsible for providing estimates of the number of people watching television. This includes which channels and programmes are being watched, when they are watched and the type of people who are viewing at any one time. Viewing data is collected second-by-second and delivered on a minute-by-minute basis for channels received within the UK. The channel viewed the longest in a clock minute is attributed the viewing of that minute.

Viewing estimates are obtained from a panel of television owning private homes representing the viewing behaviour of the 26 million TV households within the UK. The panel is selected to be representative of each ITV and BBC region, with pre-determined sample sizes. Each home represents, on average, about 5,000 of the UK population.

Panel homes are selected via a multistage, stratified and unclustered sample design so that the panel is representative of all television households across the UK. A range of individual and household characteristics (panel controls) are deployed to ensure that the panel is representative. The prime control is a 20 cell matrix, made up of means of TV reception, life stage (pre-family, young family, older family, post family and retired), and social grade. As estimates for the large majority of panel controls are not available from Census data it is necessary to conduct an Establishment Survey to obtain this information.

RSMB is responsible for producing the sample design, including maintaining the panel controls to ensure their relevance to the panel. RSMB also conducts continuous quality control checks on BARB’s behalf.

The BARB Establishment Survey has the purpose of measuring the characteristics of UK households (demographics, viewing equipment, etc), producing universes for panel control and weighting purposes and providing addresses from which to recruit the panel.

The survey is carried out on a continuous basis and involves some 53,000 interviews per annum. It is a random probability survey, which means that every private residential household within the UK has a chance of being selected for interview. Interviews are conducted face-to-face using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) and take, on average, 20 minutes to complete. The survey ensures that any changes taking place in the population can be identified so that the panel can be updated and adjusted to ensure that it continues to reflect the television owning population. In addition to being the prime source of television population information, the Establishment Survey also generates the supply of addresses from which the panel is recruited.

The BARB Establishment Survey is conducted by Ipsos MORI, which has responsibility for contacting each household selected for the survey and conducting interviews.

When a household agrees to join the panel their home has all their television sets, PVRs, DVDRs, VCRs etc. electronically monitored by a meter. Each piece of equipment that is connected to each TV set in the home is also connected to the BARB meter, which electronically monitors the equipment and determines which one is feeding the TV screen at any point and what it is doing. Over 30,000 devices, including equipment that is identified but not measured by BARB (games consoles, for example) are connected into BARB meters. Each TV in a home is connected to its own meter which holds an electronic record for the set. The meter is a small box which is put close to each television set and connected to it. The meter automatically identifies the channel that the panel member is viewing.

The company responsible for recruiting panel homes and installing the metering equipment is TNS.

Going by the figures quoted above; that one household with a BARB meter represents 5000 households then we can presume that there approx 5,200 households in the UK with BARB meters fitted to measure viewing, which includes S4C. In Wales there would be approximately 256 households but I gather there are an additional 200 households selected in Wales specifically to measure S4C viewing figures... which is all very well up to now.

The problem that now arises is how well do RSMB/Ipsos MORI and TNS allocate the BARB meters particularly to Welsh speaking households? Well according to an industry insider who has an intimate knowledge of how viewers are selected which includes "possible" S4C viewers; describes the system as 'unreliable' and 'underestimates' S4C viwers.

Basically what happens is that Ipsos Mori interview potential panelists and for the S4C panelists they are asked whether there is someone in the household who speaks or is learning Welsh, now bearing in mind that every child in Wales is a learner it is likely that all 200 households surveyed would answer yes to that question. Panellists are also incentivised to claim they speak Welsh by the offer of monthly High Street vouchers which add up to the cost of the BBC licence. Even if the children who were learning Welsh watched children's programmes on S4C it is unlikely they would be counted in the viewing figures. Apparently technicians who fitted the BARB meters were regularly reporting to their TNS managers that households who had S4C meters fitted did not speak Welsh but they ignored the problem because of the expense incurred in recruiting new panel members.

So here we have it; government decisions affecting the Welsh language made on wholly inaccurate evidence. Hopefully Alun Ffred and the Assembly's Culture Committee would seek to investigate these allegations further.

NB - As a matter of interest how many Welsh speaking household that we know have a BARB meter? I know of none.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

More incompetence by Edwina's bureaucrats!

Wrecsam Council own a large site on Rhuthun Road, Wrecsam, which used to be a highways depot but a decision was made to sell off the site to Morrisons as a supermarket. Situated next door to this site is Wrecsam's Ambulance Station and as a neighbour the Wales Ambulance Trust would have been consulted on the development; no objection was received.

The site was granted planning permission for a supermarket some months ago but since then, not much has happened. Further enquiries by the local member, Cllr Phil Wynne revealed that the Welsh Ambulance Trust, have raised concerns about the effect the supermarket will have on their ability to carry out "999" response operations from their Ruthin Road depot.

The Ambulance Trust will now jeopardise a development which will deliver 300 plus much needed new jobs, improved road infrastructure for the area, a shopping destination and a major capital receipt which has been ear-marked by Wrecsam County Borough Council for their schools building project.

What is completely nonsensical about this whole fiasco is the fact that the Ambulance Trust have recently submitted a planning application for a new joint head-quarters with the Fire Services, to be located on Croesnewydd Road. If that is their long term plans why should they want to object to a supermarket development.

I understand that Lesley Griffiths AM has made representations to Edwina Hart to bring pressure on the Welsh Ambulance Trust to withdraw the objection, but that seems to have been to no avail.

Monday, 25 October 2010

1000 sign petition to keep children's services in Wrecsam Maelor

‎15 people helped Plaid's town branch collect nearly 1000 names in just an hour for the "save Wrecsam Special Care Baby Unit" petition in Wrecsam town centre today.
Fantastic to hear how much our health service means to people. This is an emergency service that deals with one in 10 of all the births in Wrecsam.

Diolch i bawb am eu help heddiw.

Derided by the Druid.

Back in May of this year I blogged on Fair Pensions for All; it was in response to the flack and derision that Plaid Cymru's main election promise, that of a decent pension was receiving by opposition parties, the Western Mail and other political bloggers predominantly the Druid. The main criticism was that the policy was not costed out and unaffordable and that it was just a populist stunt.

Chief amongst our critics then were the Liberal Democrats and where are we today? Yes another u turn by Vince Cable plagiarising Plaid Cymru policy by announcing an increase of the Minimum Income Guarantee of State Retirement Pension of £140 a week for a single person. Isn't that damned close to what Plaid Cymru were proposing just 6 months ago. I wonder what the Druid has to say now? probably he'll be very supportive now its been proposed by the Con Dems.

Aled Selected!

Aled Roberts, Leader of Wrecsam Council has been selected to head the Liberal Democrat North Wales Regional list for the Assembly Elections in May 2011. He beat the incumbent AM since 1999, Eleanor Burnham by a comprehensive 143 votes to 88. Congratulations to Aled Roberts; now we have the big bun fight for the leadership of Wrecsam Council...smoke filled rooms and late night phone calls!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Welsh Knot - and the last train home

There's an interesting programme on BBC Wales tonight called The Welsh Knot, in which veteran broadcaster David Williams looks at Welsh-medium schools and the use of Welsh by their pupils.
In trailing the programme, it seems much is made of the use of English by those pupils outside the classroom. I hope the programme has more substance than that because that was also the case when I attended a Welsh-medium school (Ysgol Maes Garmon in Mold) back in the 1970s.
Welsh back then was definitely not a cool language to speak and then, as now, the overwhelming cultural influences (whether music, TV or elsewhere) were Anglo-American. We were lucky because we caught "y tren ola adre" (the last train home), to quote Steve Eaves. The last train for us was the Welsh music scene, which meant regular trips to the Dixieland in Rhyl and Corwen Pavilion for some epic nights with Geraint Jarman and Edward H. We mixed with kids who spoke Welsh outside school (this was a major culture shock), we lived, loved and got drunk... and realised you could do it all in Welsh.
It was the way Welsh was made a normal language for those of us who never grew up in an area where most people spoke Welsh. Kids today growing up in Wrecsam or Mold or Valleys towns don't have even that limited outlet as the Welsh music scene isn't what it was.
There isn't an easy answer to this but it's clear that Welsh-medium education in isolation is not enough. The Welsh-speaking heartlands are under threat and, while there is heartening growth further east, the next generation also needs to see that the Welsh language is for more than the classroom. Good work is being done by Mentrau Iaith and volunteers and hopefully the Eisteddfod will provide a brief insight into that alternate world. But far more needs to be done in terms of popularising the language so that new generations don't miss the last train home.

The banking crisis

Guest blog by Plaid Hightown

Since the banking crisis we have been told that this is the gravest economic problem the world has face since the Great Depression.
In 1921 the UK economy was undergoing a post war boom, admittedly with high levels of debt due to expenditure on the war. The Lloyd George ministry, the last time the ‘Liberals’ were in power, responded to this situation with the ‘Geddes Axe’ which slashed public expenditure and resulted in a decade of stagnation followed by depression.
In 1928 at the end of a great decade of laissez faire economics the United States elected the conservative Herbert Hoover President, the only time being elected President was actually a demotion, Hoover oversaw the Wall Street crash and responded with same economic policies that favoured the rich at the expense of the poor.
The arrest of the Great Depression only began with the election of Franklin Roosevelt as President, who immediately began to tackle the economy by closing the bad banks and enforcing a stringent regime of banking and market regulation. Roosevelt oversaw a massive increase in public spending, which resulted in an increase of the debt and the deficit. Hoover failed and Roosevelt succeeded.
In response to the latest crisis in Thatcherite capitalism the UK Government has announced the most drastic cuts to public expenditure in generations because, they claim, the UK debt and deficit have reached ‘frightening’ levels. In fact they are half of what they were for the period 1918 to 1969. The debt and deficit stand at 70% and 11% of GDP respectively.
Up until 2008 the debt and deficit had been at respectable levels when the banking crisis occurred and economic growth went from a robust 4% in quarter 4 2007 to -5% in quarter 4 2008 so a direct correlation can be drawn from a decrease in economic growth to a massive increase in the debt and the deficit.
In order to put the deficit in perspective let us look at other G7 states, all of whom bar Canada have higher deficits and none of whom are proposing cuts like the UK Governments. In fact the US Government have been increasing spending as a financial stimulus, which has resulted in a higher economic growth rate than the UK’s in the last three quarters.
Now the UK Government says that it is imperative to reduce the debt and the deficit in order to regain the confidence of the financial markets and drive down the cost of Government borrowing. Even though the cost of borrowing fell during the first two quarters of this year.
The UK Government has ruled out tackling the deficit by raising taxes on the rich or business. Businesses like the banks that caused the financial crisis in the first place. The same banks that are doling out bonuses equal to 2007 levels.
UK GNP currently stands at $2.25 trillion, with the Government announcing cuts of $128 billion, this amounts to a reduction in GNP OF 5.7%.
This is allied with the shedding of 500,000 jobs from the economy. Now assuming that the UK employment rate stays the same as it was in the last quarter it would add an extra 35,000 to the figures of those on benefits.
So the UK Government have proposed growing the economy by reducing GNP and increasing the number of the unemployed. This would be a fantastic achievement and it is in everyone’s interest that the Government succeeds in growing the economy but the portents are not good. These cuts are unjustified, unfair and will damage the prospects of economic growth.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Council Unveils new Short Term Break Facility

I was very pleased to be invited to the opening of this wonderful facility on my ward which demonstrates Wrecsam Council's committment to supporting disabled people and their carer's and it was nice to meet so many of them as well as the committed staff of whom there will be 12 providing 24/7 support at Park View.

Wrexham Council's Adult Social Care Department has today unveiled its new short term break facility on Wheatsheaf Lane in Gwersyllt.

The new service will allow carers to have a short break knowing their loved one is in a safe, secure and accessible environment.

"Park View" replaces two facilities G.A.T.E. based in Rhosddu which catered for people with a physical disability and the facility on Oak Drive in Acton which catered for people with learning disabilities.

The dual registered facility will be open 24 hours a day 7 days a week and staff have undertaken additional training in recent months to meet the recommendations of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales to ensure the service will meet the highest standards expected by service users. Park View will be used to encourage and support people to improve their daily living skills and support them to access the community and also give them the opportunity to assist with the daily running of the house.

The Mayor officially opened the facility and paid tribute to those involved in bringing the facility to fruition and also to the community of Gwersyllt which he described as welcoming and supportive.

Andrew Figiel, Chief Social Care Officer, said:

"This facility will provide a first class environment for vulnerable adults to help them acquire the skills needed to live as independent a life as possible. It will also give their carers a break from what can be a demanding and challenging role. Staff are looking forward to working in the new facility and they have all embraced the opportunity to gain further skills in order to help those who attend Park View."

Whilst I have no regrets about this facility I have always felt that land surrounding this facility which is in the council's ownership should have been developed to provide further 'supported living' units rather than being sold for general affordable housing. This would then have provided more opportunities for independent living but with support nearby if needed.

More shops for Wrecsam.

Despite the recession and the likelihood of a double dip recession the retail sector in Wrecsam, whilst not booming is certainly not in crisis either. Amongst the shops opening is a Ballgown shop in Eagles Meadow (facing Yorke Street), this is a North Wales based company from Conwy. The other side of Eagles Meadow facing the Mecca on Smithfield Road, will be a Gents Barbers with a bar which will be open 7/7. Next door to NEXT there will be a fitted Bathrooms, Bedrooms and Kitchen shop, there is also a vacant shop opposite the footbridge on EM being occupied but I've no idea what at present.

Outside Eagles Meadow complex, Dragon DVD's have moved to Henblas Street and there is a new Fish stall in the Butcher's Market replacing Tim's. Other shops relocating to bigger premises are Vostro Cameras to by the Bus Station; Capture Photography from Henblas Street to Charles Street and Color Supplies moving to the old MFI store in Mount Street Retail Park. There are also several temporary or 'pop up leases' on vacant property which we have every year.

I wish them all every success and I'm also grateful to Isobel, Colin and the Town Centre team for their efforts.

Darlledu Cymreig mewn mwy o helbul!

Fasa rywyn yn meddwl fod helbulon S4C yn ddigon o broblem i genedl fach fatha ni, a hwyrach mae bach yw problemau Radio Cymru yn Bangor i'w gymharu ag S4C; ond mae colli un o hoelion wyth y radio sef Jonsi neu Eifion Jones yn dipyn o sioc ac yn fy marn i yn golled fawr i Radio Cymru. Dyma sylw Golwg 360 ar y stori drist yma.

Support local food producers

One of Wrecsam's hidden secrets is the quality of the food it produces locally. We have some fantastic meat, veg and dairy producers, but who knew we also had chilli jam makers, veggie cooks and truffle experts in Llay?

Here's a comprehensive list of some of our local food producers - they'll all be in the town centre at a special food fair on 17 November.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Cofio Aberfan 1966

44 years ago today, a slag heap above Aberfan slid down the mountain and engulfed the village school. The man-made disaster took the lives of 28 adults and 116 children.
As primary schoolkids we were taken to the village cemetery en route to an Urdd Eisteddfod. Row upon row of identical white headstones commemorated each child. It's impossible not to be moved by such a terrible loss for the entire community.

Fighting with one arm behind our backs

The cuts are coming, that much we now know. But the extent of the cuts in public spending and on welfare benefits and the impact of the UK government's decisions is still difficult to quantify until the small print is scrutinised.
One thing is apparent. The outlook is already fragile because manufacturing, which makes up a large part of the Welsh economy, took a big hit in 2007-9. This round of cuts targets the public sector, which again makes up a large part of the Welsh economy. This puts us at risk of a double-dip recession and we might not now about it until it's too late.

Welsh economist Professor David Blackaby of Swansea University has already pointed to evidence of weakening in the housing market as a sign that a return to recession could be facing the Welsh economy.

“There is evidence in the housing market suggesting it is going for a double dip. House prices didn’t fall as much as expected the last time.

“If there was a double-dip across the UK we would know about it, but not in Wales because we do not collect quarterly GDP figures.”

“We know that Wales was harder hit in the recession we have had because of the size of the manufacturing sector in Wales. It was manufacturing which was particularly badly hit. The next job losses are likely to come in the public sector and that is again a sector which is relatively bigger in Wales than in the UK.”

Some economists have gone even further, warning that a double-dip recession for the whole of the UK is inevitable following the spending cuts.

Economist David Blanchflower says that not only was a double-dip recession now a certainty, but that any return to growth would be anaemic, leading to rising unemployment.

“I’ve already called it the greatest macro-economic mistake in years. There’s no example in history where such a thing as this has ever worked. The only examples in history is where you’ve done this and it’s failed.

“It generates double-dip recession, this looks like the greatest error we’ve ever seen in our lifetime in economics.”

With the Welsh Government's budget cut by 11% - a greater percentage than either Scotland or the North of Ireland - the need for a powerful parliament for Wales has never been greater. At present, the Assembly is like a prize fighter with one arm tied behind it's back - unable to fight Wales's corner effectively.
Until we have those powers, the politicians in London will impose their will on us - regardless of whether we voted for them or not.

Standing up to the ConDem cuts - defend public services

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

One cut that's good news for Wales

One cut that Wales should welcome is the news that the UK Government's plans for a privatised military training college at St Athan have been scrapped.

The military college, it was claimed by Labour and Tory politicians alike, would bring "thousands of jobs" to the area. They were wrong from the start. The project was in reality job reduction over the three armed services and it is now clear that only a few hundred unskilled jobs could be available for Vale of Glamorgan people. In fact, more job seekers would have come to the Vale
than new jobs [1].

Max Wallis from Cynefin y Werin and Barry Friends of the Earth said today:

‘This overblown project is opposed by many local people and has blighted the St. Athan area, as we argued at the public Inquiry [2]. Advance payments from MoD and the Welsh Assembly of many millions of pounds have been a gravy train for private consultants, instead of funds going to upgrading MoD training facilities.’

Anne Greagsby Cynefin y Werin and Wales Green Party commented:
‘We are jubilant that this shows we might actually halt the militarisation of Wales and the training of military personnel from unsavoury regimes here.’
‘Regarding any further development of aerospace business at St Athan, its viability has to be fully considered by the Welsh Assembly Government. A fraction of the money squandered on this project would have breathed life into many more sustainable green jobs in Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan.’
Max Wallis further added:
‘We support the many in the military who wanted to keep all training within MoD, confident this gives better value, flexibility and effectiveness. As with many PFIs, this one was rigged to favour privatisation over the public sector comparator. Since that, the private sector price has leapt from £11 billion to £14 billion, mainly with financial/banking charges. The Commons
Committee Report that over half the £10.5 billion for the FSTA (Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft) PFI will go to profit and banker fees, sets a big question over the cost claims.’


The up-to-date St Athan Briefing with myth-busting facts attached or can be
found here

[1] False claims about jobs for Wales (references given in the Briefing)

At the Welsh Affairs Committee in July 2006, local AM and Welsh Minister, Jane Hutt spoke of “the creation of 5500 permanent jobs”, while Chris Bryant MP upped it to “maybe 6000”. The MoD baseline numbers in DTR1 are 2400 military staff, 1600 civilian staff, 6000 defence trainees (standing population) plus contractor personnel in catering, security etc.

· At the Public Inquiry (Jan. 2010), Metrix gave 3000 total, of which 700 are military staff and 500 are non-project staff

· The 1800 civilian jobs include 1200 managers, contractor personnel and trainer staff transferring to Metrix. The jobs available for local job seekers are in cleaning, maintenance, transport and catering.

· The Inquiry was told military trainee places have reduced from the 6000 to 2700, a figure that could be cut to about 2000 by the Defence Review.

· The 2400 transfers to St Athan will bring in many job-seeking spouses and family members, estimated as 1200-1900. These job-seekers far outnumber the few hundred (up-to 600) jobs provided.

[2]The verdict from the Public Inquiry was known at the end of March, but WAG is sitting on the results. Local people and particularly Llantwit MajorCommunity Council are highly critical of this

Monday, 18 October 2010

Stage managing a car crash

The Tory-Lib Dem coalition's attempts to stage manage the cuts have been rumbled. It's an excellent article.

The much-trumpeted axing of Child Benefit for the very rich was a crude deflection from the wave of welfare cuts now about to break.

Further leaks that Child Benefit is to be cut for all youngsters over 16 and that the new aircraft carriers will set sail without any new aircraft suggest that the news management is preparing us for the worst.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Crown Estate.

This is an extract from a speech to the SNP Conference in Perth today by the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lockhead MSP calling on the Crown Estates to be devolved so that the benefits of offshore renewable energy projects accrue to the Scottish economy.
"And Conference, just as our seas provide us with food, they are now set to power our nation with clean energy.

"It is reckoned that offshore wind alone could help provide 28,000 jobs by 2020.
"And this Party wants to see the people of Scotland enjoy all the benefits of the renewablerevolution – and that means the revenues as well as the energy.

"The Scottish Government is working well with the Crown Estate Commissioners to
develop offshore renewable.

"Right now however, the Crown Estate is the only public body that accrues direct benefit from the development of renewables in our waters.

"Did you know that, since devolution, it is estimated that around £100m raised by the
Crown Estate Commissioners in Scotland has been posted to the UK Treasury by-passing

"Conference, the UK Government has taken £269 billion in oil and gas revenues since
1976 and has squandered that wealth.

"Conference, we say, never again!

"We now have a Scottish Parliament and the Crown Estate Commissioner should be
answerable to Scotland – not the UK Treasury.

"And we now have the Lib Dems in power in London.

"The same Lib Dems whose MSPs and MPs are still issuing press releases calling for the Crown Estate’s powers to be devolved.

"So, today, I am laying down the challenge to them to deliver on their promises and, if they do, they will have the full cooperation of the Scottish Government.

"And I can reveal that I am writing to the Crown Estate Commissioners calling on them to consult with Scottish Ministers before selling off any more assets.

"Recently, it has been revealed that they have sold off commercial and other properties. As a sign of goodwill, I hope that there will not be any further sales without consulting the Scottish Government until the future of the Crown Estate is settled.

"But my challenge to the Scottish Secretary is clear – don’t be feart, be bold and keep your promise - devolve the Crown Estate to Scotland!

The arguments made in this speech apllies equally to Wales as it does to Scotland. The devolvement of the Crown Estates and the creation of renewable energy jobs should be a key theme in Plaid Cymru's Assemble Election manifesto.

Bobbies before Boundaries.

Alex Salmond indicates in his key-note speech to SNP Conference in Perth that he will amalgamate the eight Scottish Police forces before he will cut back on front line Policing. Of the eight forces, the largest Strathclyde Police are responsible for half the population of Scotland. One cannot argue against his rationale we shouldn't be retaining bureaucracies whilst abandoning front line services. Alex Salmond and the SNP have already showed his committment to protecting the people of Scotland by increasing by putting an extra 1000 Police Officers on the street with a 32% drop in recorded crime and crime detection and public confidence in the Police at an all time high.

Unfortunately in England and Wales the Policing Minister Nick Herbert is going the other way by creating a bureaucratic and expensive structure of elected Police Commissioners to manage the 42 Police Forces in England and Wales.

SNP to cut NHS management by 25%

This is what we need in Wales, a competent Health Secretary who will take hold of the Wales NHS and these seven Trusts and 'shake them by the scruff of the neck'and get rid of the surplus managers and direct spending to the front line. Hats off to Nicola Sturgeon MSP, we need more politicians like her here in Wales.

Surplus School Places.

Wrecsam County Borough Council is in a somewhat fortunate position compared to other authorities in having very few surplus school places within the primary sector with figures for admission to reception classes for September 2010, having been published. These figures show that there were only 1.6% surplus places this year. There were 1630 successful applications against an admission number of 1656. Of the 57 Primary schools in the County Borough, nearly half (26) were either full or oversubscribed with Ysgol Plas Coch (WME) with an admission number of 27 actually admitting 66 children being the most oversubscribed; hence the need for a new Welsh School in Gwersyllt.

Opponents of the new Welsh School in Gwersyllt argue that opening a new Welsh School will create surplus places in the existing English Medium Schools and may lead to closure. The six schools that may be affected are:
1. Ysgol Plas Coch (37)
2. Ysgol Rhosddu +1
3. Ysgol Wat's Dyke (4)
4. Gwersyllt CP +7
5. Ysgol Heulfan (2)
6. Llay Park (4)
*Surplus places +, oversubscription ().

In those 6 schools there were 244 admission places in Reception class for September 2010 but 285 children were admitted; and even without the 37 extra children in Plas Coch the other 5 English Medium Schools would still be oversubscribed.

The new Welsh school will be a single form entry of a total of 210 pupils with a maximum of 30 pupils per year which still would not cater for the total number of over subscribed for Plas Coch (37).

The demography changes and the increase in pupil numbers in the County Borough is more likely to require the opening of a new English Medium Primary school than the closure of one because of a new Welsh school; the surplus places argument is flawed!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Wrecsam anti-cuts vigil, 20th October

Campaigners opposed to cuts in public services are preparing to take to the streets in response to the announcement on Wednesday of the Tory/Lib Dem government's Comprehensive Spending Review which will announce swinging cuts in the public sector

North Wales Against Cuts, a grassroots group of trade unionists and community campaigners, has called for a one-hour vigil beside the Miners' statue in Lord Street, Wrexham, starting at 4.30pm on Wednesday (20 October).

One of the NWAC organisers is Steve Ryan, of the PCS civil service union. He said:
"The announcement of the closure of Newport passport office with the loss of 300 jobs shows what can be expected, especially in Wales which seems to be bearing the brunt of the cuts.

"North Wales Against Cuts does not believe the working class should pay for the arrogance and mismanagement of the bankers and bosses, there are alternatives such as putting resources into the public sector to collect the billions of tax owed, create green jobs, scrap Trident and end the pointless war in Afghanistan."

NWAC organiser Eileen O'Reilly added:
"Anyone who is worried about the effect of cuts in the public sector - whether it's tax workers, council contractors or families opposed to the threatened closure of the Special Care Baby Unit in Wrexham - they're all welcome to join us in the town centre this coming Wednesday. Unity is strength and we must all support each other's campaigns."

As well as the vigil at 4.30pm on the 20th immediately after the government announcement , there will be a march and rally on Saturday 23rd starting 1pm Queen Square, Wrexham, followed by a rally at the Railway Club in the town centre.

Steve Ryan added: "North Wales Against Cuts urges everyone to join in and protect jobs and services."

English Deluded League back in town

A rag bag of 30 EDL boneheads invaded Wrecsam town centre today - once again repeating the mistakes of the last visit by chanting football songs and waving the St George's flag. This time they went one better and carried a flag of St Andrews. Doh!
There were more police than boneheads, some of whom had been drafted in from as far away as Rhyl for the day.
The "march" lasted for about 100 yards before being stopped at Queen Sq.

UPDATE: This from a Plaid member who was present in town today:

The English Defence League was back in Wrecsam today. Maybe that should be the English Deluded League since they were obviously geographically challenged staging their impromptu march in the largest town in north Wales. Especially so since they were assuring themselves they had St George in their hearts whilst brandishing the Saltire on the streets of Wales! This alcopop swigging group of barely two dozen stationed themselves outside the council offices surrounded by a greater number of police officers and their dog- drafted in from Y Rhyl to babysit a group that attracted no attention at all.

I had an enjoyable day manning a stall in Queens’ Square to celebrate the town’s twinning with the German town of Märkischer Kreis and the Polish town of Racibórz that attracted a wealth of attention to celebrate Wrecsam’s, Wales’ and Europe’s true values of community and international harmony. It was reassuring to see the assembled crowd, which far outnumbered the later arriving EDL mob, enjoying the performance of Theatr yr Ifanc on the street.

Slippery Lib Dems.

My thanks to an ex Police colleague for forwarding me this cartoon which sums up the changing positions of the Liberal Democrats on the thorny issue of tuition fees very well:

Maximum wage in the public sector

The coming Con-Dem coalition's cuts in the public sector will mean that councils face making severe cuts in their services. As well as doing all we can to fight those cuts by challenging the warped mentality of the Con-Dem government, councillors will also have to accept that those cuts will be happening.

We need, therefore, to establish some principles on which those cuts are made.

The first principle is to cut from the top in order to protect frontline services. Wrecsam Council is showing a principled lead at the moment - 25% of strategic officers have already been cut and the next tier is facing a more severe trim.

Another principle that Plaid has advocated nationally is the idea of a maximum wage, particularly in the public sector. If it's good enough for the John Lewis Partnership and Barack Obama's public sector reforms, a 10:1 ratio of highest to lowest pay in any one organisation should be good enough for the Welsh public sector.

Wrecsam council's lowest paid full-time worker currently earns £12,700 a year so the logic is that the chief executive should earn 10 times that. Surprise, surprise, the chief exec currently earns £107,000 plus an unspecific amount for being the county's Returning Officer at elections. If top officers want a pay rise they will have to justify it by raising the pay of the bottom tier of workers' pay.

Most if not all other chief executives in Wales earn far more than that ratio - it's time councils throughout Wales got real and realised that the pay Wrecsam offers its top officers is in line with a reasonable rate for the job.

Monday, 11 October 2010

A flag day for Trident?

Nightingale House is one of the most popular charities in Wrecsam, doing fantastic work with both patients and their families. So why do they have to spend so much time and effort raising money and struggling for the basics when central government is willing to fritter away billions on Trident and aircraft carriers and illegal wars?
Roll on the day when the generals and warmongering politicians are out on the streets with flags trying to collect enough pennies for Trident. And there's enough funding available for organisations like Nightingale House.

And now for something completely different...

click to enlarge

John Marek's latest leaflet seems to have been done in a bit of a hurry. The punctuation and layout is bad enough but who allowed lines such as "The NHS should be run FOR the patients" and "I have done it before and will do it again" to slip through? In England, of course, the Tories want the NHS to be run by the GPs - would that be the preferred choice in Wales as well if Tories like Dr Marek got elected?

I wasn't impressed (and nor were 200 students) by the ill-tempered clashes between Marek and Lucas in the recent Yale College Question Time. I'm even less impressed with this leaflet.

Update: One local Tory has commented that the leaflet is a "joke".

Will Clegg apologise for misleading students?

This clip suggests Nick Clegg's Lib Dums gave up an awful lot of their principles to climb into bed with the Tories.

All those Lib Dem student votes in Cardiff Central, Ceredigion, Swansea West, Newport... gone!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Recycling - what goes around, comes around

One of the most bizarre arrests of recent years was that of Wrecsam environmental activist Genny Bove back in 2008 for taking plastic chairs out of a council skip to re-use them. Re-use being the best way to reduce waste.
The case was covered briefly on this blog but Plaid councillors also raised the wider issue with officers after being elected. We argued that people should be able to take away unwanted goods from the council's skip sites and that a specific bay should be created for that use.
Two years ago, that argument was ruled unworkable due to health and safety grounds but it's interesting to note that such a policy has come to pass and that we now have a social enterprise called New 2 You taking unwanted goods from the council's own sites - except now it's with permission rather than getting arrested!
New 2 You has meant that 17 tonnes of goods have been re-used in the community rather than going to landfill - not only saving the council money by paying less Landfill Tax, but also in helping to provide affordable furniture for people.
Like the proverbial oil tanker, the council sometimes takes a long time to turn around. All the indications suggest that this is changing - let's hope so.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Plaid's Facebook campaign takes off

Join the "Marc for Wrecsam / Etholwch Marc yn Wrecsam" Facebook campaign. You know you want to...

Are Welsh MPs really that unpopular in Labour?

Much has been made of the failure of Welsh Labour MPs to get into the Shadow Cabinet on their own merit. Peter Hain has been parachuted in to save Milibland's embarrassment of having an English MP in the Welsh Secretary's job.

But the lack of support for the Welsh candidates, some of whom were long-standing ministers, really is an eye-opener.

Diane Abbott 59
Douglas Alexander 160 ELECTED
Ed Balls 179 ELECTED
Hilary Benn 128 ELECTED
Roberta Blackman-Woods 63
Ben Bradshaw 53
Kevin Brennan 64
Chris Bryant 77

Andy Burnham 165 ELECTED
Liam Byrne 100 ELECTED
Vernon Coaker 85
Yvette Cooper 232 ELECTED
Mary Creagh 119 ELECTED
Wayne David 30
John Denham 129 ELECTED
Angela Eagle 165 ELECTED
Maria Eagle 107 ELECTED
Rob Flello 15
Caroline Flint 139 ELECTED
Mike Gapes 12
Barry Gardiner 41
Helen Goodman 80
Peter Hain 97
David Hanson 38
Tom Harris 54
John Healey 192 ELECTED
Meg Hillier 106 ELECTED
Huw Irranca-Davies 28
Kevan Jones 68
Alan Johnson 163 ELECTED
Tessa Jowell 152 ELECTED
Eric Joyce 10
Barbara Keeley 87
Sadiq Khan 128 ELECTED
David Lammy 80
Chris Leslie 26
Ivan Lewis 104 ELECTED
Ian Lucas 34
Fiona Mactaggart 88
Pat McFadden 84
Ann McKechin 117 ELECTED
Alun Michael 11
Jim Murphy 160 ELECTED
Gareth Thomas 71
Emily Thornberry 99
Stephen Timms 79
Stephen Twigg 55
Shaun Woodward 72
Iain Wright 43

1200 Wrexham children have been attacked in schools

One attack every school day

A child is attacked in a Wrexham school on average every day, according to shocking new figures released today.

Now Plaid Cymru politicians are urging parents to watch out for signs of bullying and to listen more to their children’s concerns after the revelation that more 1200 pupils had been attacked in schools in Wrexham over the past five years.

The figures were released to BBC Wales after a Freedom of Information Request to councils across Wales and show that, in the last school year, 245 children were attacked. That's more than one child per school day.

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru Assembly candidate in Clwyd South, said that he himself had suffered bullying as a primary school pupil, and that violent attacks were often the physical culmination of other forms of bullying:

“Bullying can have a severe impact on children and can scar them for life. It can knock their self-confidence. These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg as far as other forms of bullying is concerned. The sad fact is that bullying reflects worse on the people that do the bullying, it could be that they themselves are low on self esteem or having a troubled time at home. But it’s the children that are being bullied that then have to cope with the knock on effects.

“Children shouldn’t be afraid to talk out, and adults shouldn’t dismiss a child’s concerns. It’s not a case of a child who is being bullied needing to ‘grow-up’, ‘toughen-up’ or ‘stand-up for themselves’. Admitting to being bullied is a brave first step and they need to know that their family is there to support them. I remember being bullied as a child and I kept it quiet for fear of making it worse. My parents caught on and dealt with it quickly, and I am forever grateful to them.”

The NSPCC say that a large 14% of calls to their Childline service in 2009/2010 was because of bullying.

Marc Jones, Plaid's Assembly candidate for Wrexham, added:

"These are frightening statistics. Bullying can blight a young person's life, whether it's physical attacks or of a more psychological kind. Tackling the small minority who carry out these attacks must be a priority and we must make sure children have the confidence to come forward if there are incidents like these in their schools."

Key maternity services must stay in Wrecsam

Essential maternity services should remain at the Wrecsam Maelor hospital, according to Plaid Cymru's Wrecsam Assembly candidate Marc Jones.

Mr Jones said the campaign that had grown around keeping the Special Care Baby Unit and other maternity services at Wrexham was an indication of how strongly local people felt about their NHS. He added:
"The Special Care Baby Unit is effectively an emergency unit dealing with premature and sick neonates. New babies are among the most unpredictable of patients and need immediate treatment rather than facing a possible 45-minute emergency dash up the A55.

"Recent meetings to outline the possibilities have shown that Wrexham scores well when it comes to delivering a service to an area with a growing and youthful population. It is also well placed to serve North Powys and the population down towards Barmouth. It would also provide an alternative to people opting to go to Shrewsbury or Chester to have their babies, which comes at an additional cost to the NHS in Wales."

He said the clinical case for reducing services, which has been cited by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board as a reason for wanting to centralise maternity services in one or two centres across North Wales, should not be used as an excuse to cut costs.

Mr Jones, who is also a councillor in the town, added:
"North Wales's hospitals deal with 7,300 births a year - more than any other board area in Wales - and it currently has three neonatal units to deal with sick and premature babies at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Wrecsam Maelor.

"Feedback from the recent stakeholders' meeting in Llandudno revealed that the option ticking the most boxes is one that keeps the Special Care Baby Units in Wrecsam and Gwynedd.

"There is a good objective case to retain the SCBU in Wrecsam and I hope NHS bosses will recognise that. They should not use their need to cut spending by 9% to reduce essential services, especially as the proposed specialist ambulance service available would only operate for 12 hours. Emergency services can't work 9-5 - they have to be available on a 24-hour basis."

He expressed support for the online petition and Facebook campaign started by mothers who had direct experience of the care provided on the unit. He added:
"Given that one in 10 new-born babies spends some time on the unit, it's no surprise that so many people have a very deep emotional involvement in the unit."

UPDATE: Join the parents' protest on Facebook.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Audit Office had £1m "black hole" in accounts

Sometimes you really can't make it up... these clowns are responsible for making sure other government bodies stick to the rules.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Wrecsam's Special Care Baby Unit safe?

Today saw a key meeting regarding the future of maternity services in North Wales, where the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is looking at 9% cuts in spending in the coming year.
The area's hospitals deal with 7,300 births a year - more than any other board area in Wales - and it currently has three neonatal units to deal with sick and premature babies at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Wrecsam Maelor.
Several proposals were put before 200 key interested parties, including service users and staff, at the meeting in Llandudno but the service ticking the most boxes is one that keeps the Special Care Baby Unit in Wrecsam and Gwynedd. That's bad news of course for Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, where a number of staff have been transferred from Wrecsam over the past year in anticipation of the centralising of the service.
If the decision is made to retain the Special Care Baby Unit in Wrecsam, it will be a vindication for the fantastic campaign by local people who know all too well how important that unit has been to them.
Plaid locally fought to retain intensive care cots on SCBU four years ago and has campaigned consistently for local health services. The population of Wrecsam is growing and youthful and there is an important strategic advantage in maintaining services in those two sites - 98% of the population can access them within an hour.
Another important consideration is that closing the unit in Wrecsam would mean mums from the border counties of Flintshire, Wrecsam and Powys looking to Chester and Shrewsbury rather than the difficult 45-minute journey up the A55 to Glan Clwyd. Those babies born in Chester would be at a cost to the NHS in Wales.
NHS bosses still have to make the final decision but the signs are that SCBU in Wrecsam is not being downgraded.

Toys out of the pram over child benefits

Highly amusing to see the new Aberconwy Tory MP Guto Bebb throw his toys out of the pram at the first Tory-Lib Dem attack on the welfare state.
As the ever excellent Blogmenai points out, whatever can have possessed the high-earning father of five to come out against proposed cuts in Child Benefit for those earning more than £44,000?
I happen to agree with Bebb but for vastly different reasons. Child Benefit, like the State Pension, is a universal benefit and when the state starts to means test benefits, there's only one way that can go.
This first assault on universal benefits will only hit the very affluent - less than 10 per cent of people in Wales earn more than £44,000 a year. But this government will no doubt lower the threshold at every budget and, before we know it, it's entirely possible that the majority of people will be excluded from what were universal benefits.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Damned PDF's

Public Authorities have up to now been able to get their own back on those of us who make extensive use of Freedom of Information requests by supplying the information in such a format which makes copying and pasting or analysing nigh impossible or very time consuming.

My favourite public authority, the North Wales Police are experts at such procedures; in that they publish responses in read only PDF formats so if I wish to include a copy of the published response in a blog I either copy it word by word or scan the whole document.

It was therefore a pleasure to read the announcement made yesterday by Francis Maude MP that all FOI responses are to be made machine readable and more accessible:
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told the Conservative party conference in Birmingham that the Freedom of Information Act will be amended so that all data released through FoI must be in a reusable and machine readable format.

The change in the law will mean that FoI data is "available to everyone and able to be exploited for social and commercial purposes", he said on 3 October 2010.

This means using formats such as .csv, an open spreadsheet format, or .xls, which is used by Microsoft's Excel – but not the portable document format. PDFs can only be opened as visual files, with software such as spreadsheets unable to extract the actual information.

...""We want to go much further," he told delegates. "Thousands of commercial and social entrepreneurs have been frustrated by their inability to obtain and reuse datasets. I'm sorry to say that some councils spend time and money deliberately making data unusable to anyone else."

HT to Heather Brooke @newsbrooke

Datganoli S4C

Mae'r stori yma yn yr Western Mail yn dilyn cyfarfod Alun Ffred hefo Jeremy Hunt ynglyn a dyfodol S4C yw y rheswm gorau eto dros ddatganoli darlledu. Mae'n anodd derbyn fod y gweinidog dros ddarlledu a ffasiwn ddiffyg dealltwriaeth ynglyn a phwrpas y sianel. Allwn ni byth ymddiried mewn Ceidwadwyr i ddiogelu dyfodol y sianel a thrwy hynny, yr iaith.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Kenneth Skates parachuted into South Clwyd

Ken who? yes that's right, Ken Skates, Ex journalist, Patymwyn Community Councillor and 'bag carrier' for Mark Tami MP has been selected to fight South Clwyd for Labour in what should be...on paper at least a safe Labour seat. Mr Skates, 35 years of age has previously headed the North Wales Labour Regional in the 2007 Assembly elections.

He seems to have had a particularly low profile; with the only interesting contribution I could find was this blog by Skates in the New Statesman before the 2007 election where he predicted Labour losses in North Wales, but the one Labour loss, that of Alun Pugh in Clwyd West was not enough to parachute Skates into the Assembly as top of the list.

Incidentally Pugh was also a candidate for the South Clwyd nomination; it begs the question how the 251 Labour members in South Clwyd could have selected the inexperienced Skates over Pugh who had Assembly ministerial experience?

Unless of course the unions had a vote!

Note - There is also this tongue in cheek blog by Betsan Powys where Honest Ken wasn't flavour of the month with the Welsh Labour Party hierarchy.

Half the population of Wrecsam hasn't seen a dentist in two years

Barely half the people of Wrexham and Clwyd South have visited a dentist in the past two years, prompting calls for urgent action to address the shortfall in NHS dentist capacity in Wales.

Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrexham Marc Jones said that too many people in communities across North-east Wales are finding it difficult to access an NHS dentist and are therefore going without essential dental treatment. He said:
"Just 53% of people in Wrexham have seen a dentist in the past 24 months and failing to have regular check-ups can have long-term health consequences."

His concern was reinforced by Mabon ap Gwynfor, the party's Assembly candidate in neighbouring Clwyd South, where just 56% of the population has seen a dentist in the past two years.

They outlined proposals currently being considered by Plaid as a way to address this problem. They said Plaid's proposals would introduce a new right to NHS treatment for the people of Wales. This treatment would be provided by dentists who have benefitted from state-funded training. Under the proposals these dentists would have to devote up to half their working week to the care of NHS patients.

It costs the tax payer £175,000 to put dentistry students through five years of training after which, under the current system, they are required to spend only the first year of their career as a qualified practitioner within the NHS.

Marc Jones said:
“It is clear that currently many people in Wales are finding it difficult to find an NHS dentist, supply simply doesn’t meet demand. For a lot of people going private is simply not an option, so instead they go without dental care.
This is unacceptable - regular dental check-ups are essential in maintaining oral health. Not only in terms of problems relating to tooth decay but also in terms of the prevention and identification of more serious diseases. Rates of mouth cancer are on the rise - cases have increased by 41% in the UK in the last decade - and regular check-ups are essential for catching the disease early."

Mabon ap Gwynfor added:
“Plaid is looking very seriously at how this urgent lack of NHS dentists in Welsh communities can be addressed. One proposal we are considering is the introduction of a new right to NHS treatment for the people of Wales.
This would be provided by dentists who have benefitted from state-funded training. Under the proposal Plaid in government would negotiate with dentists to ensure that those who have received state-funded training will remain in the NHS for up to half their working week. This is something that would be possible even in the face of the savage spending cuts that the London ConDem government is imposing on Wales as it would be a matter of renegotiating dental contracts rather than capital investment.

“Plaid is ambitious for the future of Wales. We’re not content to sit back and accept the status quo. We’re looking at new, radical and innovative policies and solutions that will transform Wales and its communities.”

Friday, 1 October 2010

Betsi's Communications Problems!

Despite having a highly paid Director of Communications and Governance in Ms Grace Lewis-Parry and a £1.2 billion budget, the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board seem totally incapable of conveying any positive messages about the changes they are proposing to save £400 million over 5 years. The stories that appear daily in the Daily Post and other North Wales weeklies are full of doom and gloom about cancer wards closing and services being moved from east to west without consultation. It would appear that the Health Board are lacking a coherent communication strategy. They have now recognised this and appointed the ex Network Rail's and Arriva Train Wales's PR man Eryl Jones as a Communications Expert where his role is described in an extract of a recent report before the Board:
Mr Eryl Jones, an expert in the field of communication, recently gave a presentation to the Board of Directors on improving BCUHB’s internal and external communications. He observed that the Health Board has a number of strengths, including its dedicated staff and the fact that the organisation is changing for the better. However, he also noted weaknesses such as the fact that tackling the financial crisis sometimes results in too much change, too quickly.

The consequence of rapid change can be that there is insufficient time for up to date information to reach the right people, and this in turn risks misinformation and rumours spreading across BCUHB.

Mr Jones will be working with the Board of Directors to support them in developing better strategies for ensuring that accurate messages regarding, for example, service changes are communicated in a timely manner to staff, members of the public and other stakeholders as appropriate.

I'm sure you're like me and have a number of questions to ask about this appointment; most of all the cost of such an appointment and secondly around the future of the existing Director of Communications, Grace Lewis-Parry? Can the Board really afford another highly paid non medical bureaucrat?

Dechrau'r diwedd i Llais Gwynedd / Beginning of the end for Llais Gwynedd

Newyddion da o Wynedd lle mae cynghorydd newydd o'r Blaid wedi ennill ward Bowydd a Rhiw oddiwrth Llais Gwynedd.
Good news from Gwynedd, where a new councillor has been elected for Plaid in the Bowydd and Rhiw ward, beating Llais Gwynedd.

Dyma'r canlyniad / here's the result (2008 mewn cromfachau / in brackets):

Plaid Cymru 338 (247)
Llais Gwynedd 246 (341)
Green / Gwyrdd - (117)

Mae'r Cyng. Paul Eurwel Thomas, sydd hefyd yn canu efo Gwibdaith Hen Fran, yn haeddu'r fuddugoliaeth - da iawn ti Paul! Wedi diwedd Llais y Bobol ym Mhlaenau Gwent, tybed faint o fywyd sydd ar ol yn y glymblaid ranedig sy'n galw ei hun yn Llais Gwynedd?

The new councillor, Paul Eurwel Thomas, is well worth his victory. With the demise of People's Voice in Blaenau Gwent, how much longer can the disjoined alliance that calls itself Llais Gwynedd continue? I give it 18 months.

The Strange Case of Gwion Jones Part II

On the 2nd September 2010, I wrote about the strange case of Gwion Jones from Porthmadog who walked out of his job and subsequently made an "anti English" comment on his Facebook wall about his then ex-employer. This is how the Daily Post reported it on the 26th August:
A CHEF who posted anti-English comments about his ex-boss on Facebook was yesterday handed a £380 court bill.

Gwion Jones wrote the comments on his own page after walking out of his Porthmadog hotel job.

But one of his 240-plus Facebook friends printed out the rants and showed Queens Hotel owner Lisa Edmunds.

She took it to North Wales Police and yesterday Jones faced Pwllheli magistrates.

The 32-year-old of Pensyflog, Porthmadog, pleaded guilty to sending a message that was offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing by means of a public communications network.

I subsequently argued that North Wales Police and the Crown Prosecution Service were operating double standards in prosecuting one off individuals who had no previous convictions whilst ignoring persistent racists who made numerous offensive comments on Facebook Groups about the mosque in Wrecsam.

This story in the Daily Post from the 3rd March 2010, is a case in point:
POLICE are investigating a sick anti-Muslim website set up on Facebook to stir up tensions over fake claims a ‘super-mosque’ was being built in Wrexham.

And the website, which bears the Welsh Defence League logo, is also filled with hateful messages against Muslims, which North Wales Police are now investigating.

I followed up on this story with a Freedom of Information request of North Wales Police; the question I posed was:
"On the 3rd March 2010, the Daily Post reported that the Police were investigating a 'sick anti Muslim website set up on Facebook to stir up tensions over fake claims a super mosque was being built in Wrexham. As a result of this investigation how many people were arrested and what for? How many were prosecuted or cautioned?

This is North Wales Police's response:
There were no arrests, prosecutions or cautions in relation to the above. Following 'communication' with Facebook, the website has been closed down.

I wonder if Gwion had the opportunity to remove his comments...I very much doubt it!

So here we have it one rule for some and another rule for those who deserve prosecuting for serious crimes like threats to cause damage; yes there was a lady who was inciting people to bomb Mosques.

If I was Gwion I would be asking the higher court to set aside his conviction on the grounds that it was unfair, disproportionate and not in the public interest; but there again higher courts don't come cheap!